Wanted: Cobalt Free Partner to Wear Front Half of Horse Costume
One thoroughbred racing journo raised an interesting question recently by asking if offering prizemoney for horses finishing as low as 10th is a viable solution to dwindling fields.
That is a legitimate query.
It is not rare to see Group 1 races at the metro tracks in Victoria and New South Wale with fields of eight or nine. There are only nine listed for Saturday’s Group 1 Bisley Workwear Canterbury Stakes at Randwick and there is no Winx factor with which to contend.
Moving down in grade seems to magnify the issue, and while the example we use may be an outlier, when Black Caviar ran the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot in 2012, she had to beat only two horses.
For thoroughbred racing to be sustainable, that is, profitable, larger fields are necessary to spur betting turnover.
It is uncertain what is limiting field sizes in NSW, but possible culprits are scheduling, handicapping, or just a simple decline in the level of interest in the sport.
Racing NSW instituted the policy of giving something to every racer down to 10th place in the hopes of encouraging trainers and owners to enter more horses to flesh out fields.
This example is from Flemington, but when Winx won the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes in 2017 at Flemington, the race could have been dubbed the Chris Waller Stakes, as that trainer accounted for six horses out of the 10 that jumped. That race also paid down to 10th place. Waller claimed $84,000 on top of the $348,000 Winx earned for the win, with horses running third, sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th.
It is not just Australia, either.
In January of 2018, despite increasing the prizemoney from $12 to $16 million, the group that stages the Pegasus World Cup in Florida had to buy four spots, at a price of $1 million each, in order to get the field up to 12.
In NSW, over half a million in prizemoney has gone unclaimed just in January and February because some races could not field 10 horses.
For $6,000, we would gladly finish 10th if we could find a partner to wear half of a horse costume with us. We would even let that partner wear the head, since we are naturals at the back half.